Photographs by Simon Roberts.
Dewi Lewis, 2013. 160 pp., 81 color illustrations, 9½x12".
Simon Roberts has travelled the coastline of Britain to create a comprehensive and fascinating photographic record of the country's remaining pleasure piers, in homage to these monuments of Victorian engineering and eccentricity.
The pleasure pier follows the story of Britain's relationship to the seaside, from the early links with the Romantics, to the engineering feats and technical advancement of the Industrial Revolution. They bear witness to the growth of the coast as a pleasure destination for a monied elite, as well as the working class enthusiasm for the seaside brought on by the development of the railways and the introduction of bank holidays. Britain's piers trace our changing economic fortunes too, from post-war boom to economic downturn, and now a slow re-awakening of our appreciation of these cultural and historic landmarks.
At the turn of the last century, almost a hundred piers existed; now only half remain and several face an uncertain future. Whilst some are modest structures, others are elegant and exotic, thrusting out into the sea with characteristic Victorian aplomb. Loosely following in the footsteps of Francis Frith, whose company made the last major photographic survey of these peculiarly British structures, Roberts documented the remaining piers using his signature landscape style, echoing the aesthetic and tone of his acclaimed book We English.
Read Karen Jenkins' review of Pierdom on photo-eye Blog.